COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The 33rd annual Fountain City Classic is back this weekend as rivals, Fort Valley State University and Albany State University face off once again at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium.

The Fountain City Classic is known as one of the largest sporting events held in Columbus each year. The football game and festivities attracted around 35,000 people to the city throughout the week.

The Columbus Sports Council estimates the event has an economic impact of one million dollars.

Over the year, the Sports Council supports over 75 events, traditionally, that have an economic impact of over 19 million each year. So the events throughout the year are helping fuel our economy, the hoteliers, the restaurants, all the different establishments in the community that benefit from events like this.

Merri Sherman, Executive Director of the Columbus Sports Council

Hundreds of fans gathered in front of the stadium early Saturday morning, heating up their grills for the annual tailgate. Many tailgaters got a head start setting up their booths on Friday – camping out in RVs overnight. Some say looking for hotels was quite the mission.

I’ve called seven hotels. I was calling for a friend that was coming into town and when he called, he said he couldn’t find a room. But I called seven myself, even knowing people, and there were no rooms available. So, the economic impact is startling. It truly is.

Marvin Broadwater Sr., Omega Psi Phi

The rivalry between the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) dates back to 1945. Whether you root for the Golden Rams or the Wildcats, fans describe the tailgate as a time for love and camaraderie.

By being in a love-hate rivalry, you probably have a cousin on that side or a brother on the other side, but it’s all in love. It’s Fort Valley or ASU, this is a family. No drama, no craziness. We just laugh. It’s bragging rights. That’s what it is.”

Edward Hobbs, ASU Class of 1997

Even though there is a long standing rivalry, fans from both teams are eager to be back for next year’s Fountain City Classic – or as many call it, a big family reunion.